Tokyo - Flyhalf
Richie Mo'unga boosted his Rugby World Cup hopes on Saturday as he sparked a
second-string All Blacks side to a 69-31 victory over Japan in Tokyo.
Mo'unga scored a try and went eight-from-nine with the boot in a
sparkling 22-point display for the visitors, who ran in 10 tries against
the 2019 World Cup hosts.
Ngani Laumape bagged a hat-trick of tries for the world champions,
while George Bridge marked his All Blacks debut with a pair after coming
on at the start of the second half.
But New Zealand - resting their big-hitters for November Tests away
to England, Ireland and Italy - were given a workout by Japan, who
scored five tries of their own watched by a crowd of 43,000.
"We've put a lot of inexperienced players in a Test match against a
team that's been playing very well the last couple of years," said All
Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who picked a weakened side including eight
new caps ahead of next week's clash with England at Twickenham.
"There's a few risks involved in that, but the boys have come through and come out the other side with a big tick."
New Zealand had racked up a whopping 282 points in their previous
three meetings with Japan, including a World Cup record 145-17
demolition of the Brave Blossoms in 1995.
But Japan stunned the All Blacks by scoring the game's first try just
three minutes in, snaffled by Samuela Anise after he had charged down
Jordie Barrett's attempted clearance.
Hooker Dane Coles marked his return after a year out with injury by
grabbing New Zealand's first try to settle nerves in a side
unrecognisable from the one that beat Australia 37-20 last weekend.
The World Cup holders scored quickfire tries as Mo'unga dived over
before Laumape latched on to a clever kick from Waisake Naholo to race
Hendrik Tui kept
Japan in touch with a controversial effort, but Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
and Laumape punched through to extend New Zealand's advantage.
Japan refused to back down, however, and Timothy Lafaele bulldozed
over in the corner to reduce the deficit to 38-19 at half-time.
Bridge scored with his first touch as an All Black after a superb
burst from Mo'unga before Japan produced the game's highlight -- Yu
Tamura dinking a pinpoint kick into the corner for Jamie Henry to dive
But the All Blacks replied with four tries in 12 minutes through
Naholo, Matt Proctor, Laumape for this third of the game and a rampaging
Bridge, who will have given New Zealand selectors a headache with his
Lafaele stopped the bleeding for Japan by crashing over for his
second try of the game as the home side had the final word of a
"They've got a bit of razzle-dazzle about them," Hansen said of Japan.
"You get your money's worth.
"I'm really proud of the boys," he added of his fresh-faced side. "I
think there were 169 caps out there altogether and Colesey had 56 of
them - a good day for New Zealand rugby for the future."
Japan have lost the element of surprise since their astonishing 34-32
win over South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup but gave a decent
account of themselves before they travel to face England on November 18.
"I'm proud of the team and the way they approached the game," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
"We were playing against the world's best and they can pull tries out
of their hat - it was a massive workout for us going forward."
Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Jamie Henry, 13 William Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele,
11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Hendrik Tui, 7
Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6 Michael Leitch (captain), 5 Samuela Anise, 4 Wimpie
van der Walt, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Keita Inagaki
16 Yusuki Niwai, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Asaeli Valu, 19 Uwe Helu, 20
Vaka Nakajima, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda 23 Ryoto Nakamura
Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani
Laumape, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi,
8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 Dalton Papali'i, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Jackson
Hemopo, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ofa
Substitutes: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Tyrel
Lomax, 19 Dillon Hunt, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Brett
Cameron, 23 George Bridge